I do not have to look far; the first - and only - colour plate encourages me to make blouses and aprons out of mens' shirts. This is 'a book of renovation ideas.' Aha! It might come in handy in these recessionary times.
I get the picture - it was published in 1946. Hostilities had ended and the country was no longer at war. However, Peace had not yet bestowed the blessings of plenty and Britain still did not flow with milk and honey. The nation must continue to make do and mend. Our plucky women must continue to use their skills and ingenuity to feed and cloth their families. Knitted garments were carefully unravelled to be knitted up again, coats become jackets, stockings were re-footed. Why not make a cardigan and a skirt from a man's suit? Why not make crocheted covers for the linoleum soles of your new (home-made) slippers - or you might use plaited string?
'Slipper making is a very worth-while form of sewing, for you can make these necessary items almost without cost for every member of the family. It is quick too; you can make a slipper in an evening, perhaps even the pair, and you can do the work pleasantly in an armchair, or pick it up at any odd moment.'Yes, that's as maybe. Underwear and nightgowns apparently are a problem, wearing out as they do. Well, mend them. Unpick and resew the worn seams. Combine the good fabric from two garments to make one new one. 'Build' yourself a brassiere - a veritable over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder - click the image for details. Renew your knickers; let in extra strips of fabric if necessary - shorten your worn out woven directoire knickers into panties to wear under cami-knickers.... I am losing the plot here - pants under pants?Nothing is wasted; not a scrap. It might 'come in' - and it might need to 'come in' until clothing rationing ends in 1949. Until then the likes of 'Clever with Clothes' will firmly and cheerfully guide the sewing kits of the nation.
I think about L P Hartley's now almost proverbial quotation: 'The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there'. This, our recent past, is within the living memory of a sizeable proportion of the population but so removed are we today in terms of life style and culture we may as well be considering Medieval or Tudor times. We are strangers to frugality, strangers to making do and mending. We want stuff and we want it now. But how much do we actually need?
I flick through the pages of my little book again. Nope, I'm not inspired to remake old clothes otherwise destined for the charity shop or for gardening in - and I do think the place for old underwear is in the bin - but I'm filled with admiration for the women who set to with needle and thread and did just that. In fact any woman who can achieve the covetable embonpoint of the clever seamstress on the cover with the sole aid of a home made bra deserves the highest award.